My neighbor, Milka Chaya Kiesel, shared a story with me that gave me goosebumps at our sons’ Chanukah party last week. Here’s another JewishMOM miracle story to light up Chanukah!
Milka Chaya Kiesel grew up in a minimally observant Jewish family in California, and while in high school she suddenly made some dramatic changes in her lifestyle.
Having always been a person who has a deep thirst for meaning, she became a baalat teshuva at the unusually young age of 15.
Not long after that, Milka felt a burning need to move to Israel, and she made aliya at 17.
Once in Israel, Milka started studying the teachings of Rav Kook, and to this day she and her husband and 5 children have a deep connection with Rav Kook and his approach.
About a decade ago, a relative told Milka something that took her completely by surprise. She informed Milka that she and her family are the only living descendants of the great Rebbe Yechiel Meir of Ostrowiec, all of whose other descendants were murdered in the Shoah. Rebbe Yechiel Meir was known for his brilliance and intense service of Hashem, and had thousands of Chassidim in 19th century Poland.
As Milka learned more about her great ancestor, she was stunned to find out that unlike most of his fellow Chassidic rebbes of that period, Rebbe Yechiel Meir enthusiastically encouraged his Chassidim to move to Israel, telling them “The redemption is on the way, go to Eretz Yisrael!”
She was stunned again to discover that not only did Rebbe Yechiel Meir encourage aliya, he also had an extensive correspondence with her inspiration, HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Kook.
With this unexpected news from her relative, all of the puzzle pieces of her life suddenly fell into place.
But the most shocking wake-up call from beyond came a few months ago when Milka was paying a visit to, of all places, a local swimming pool.
Milka struck up a conversation with another woman, and in passing the woman mentioned that she has a son named Yechiel Meir.
“My sons also have the middle names Yechiel and Meir. Why did you choose that name?” Milka asked.
The woman explained, “My grandfather was the gabbai of a rebbe you probably never heard of named Rebbe Yechiel Meir of Ostrowiec. All of Rebbe Yechiel Meir’s children and grandchildren were murdered by the Nazis, yemach shmam, and he has no living descendants. So we have decided to honor him as though we are his actual descendants. We named our son after him and have a large photo of the Rebbe in our home.”
When Milka informed the woman that in fact Rebbe Yechiel Meir does have living descendants, and they are her and her family, the woman was shocked.
And what are the chances that the granddaughter of Rebbe Yechiel Meir’s devoted gabbai and one of his last living descendants would actually meet? At a swimming pool? In Jerusalem?
Milka’s illustrious ancestor, Rebbe Yechiel Meir of Ostrowiec, it seems, is still making miracles, with Hashem’s help, from the Next World.